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History of Avery County

Avery County Courthouse - Newland, North Carolina

Avery County was formed in 1911 from Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell counties. It was named in honor of Colonel Waightstill Avery, a soldier of the Revolution and Attorney General of North Carolina. It is in the northwestern section of the State and is bounded by the state of Tennessee and the counties of Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, McDowell, and Mitchell. The present land area is 247.00 square miles and the 2000 population was 17,167. Commissioners were named in the act establishing the county who were to select two or more sites for the county seat after which the county would vote on the sites. Newland is the county seat.

Avery County is the 100th and last county formed in North Carolina in 1911, from portions of Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell counties. It is named for Waightstill Avery (1741-1819) who was a Colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, a member of North Carolina state legislature, 1776, 1782-83, 1793, North Carolina State Attorney General, 1777-79; and a member of North Carolina state senate, 1796.

It is characterized by rugged mountains including Grandfather Mountain, home to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games & Gathering of Scottish Clans. It has the highest average elevation of any county in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, reaching that of 5,964 ft. above sealevel. Approximately half of the county lies within the Pisgah National Forest. There are many wild trout streams and ski resorts located within its boundaries. The population in 2002 was 17,526. The county seat is Newland.

Avery County was named after Colonel Waighstill Avery of Morganton, NC. Colonel Avery served in the Revolutionary War from 1779 until 1781. He became the first Attorney General of North Carolina after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Newland, at 3,589 feet in elevation, is the highest county seat in eastern America. It's original name was "Old Fields of Toe," because it is located in a broad flat valley and is at the headwaters of the Toe River.  
Avery County has the distinction of being the 100th and last county to be formed in the state of North Carolina and was named for Colonel Waighstill Avery of Morganton, North Carolina. Probably the best history of the county comes from "The History of Western North Carolina" by John Preston Arthur.

Avery County. This was created in 1911, out of portions of Watauga and Mitchell counties, principally. At an election held August 1, 1911, Old Fields of Toe was selected as the county seat. It so happened that this land had been granted to Colonel Waightstill Avery November 9, 1783. It was in his honor that this, the 100th county, was named, while the county seat was called Newland, in honor of Hon. W. C. Newland, of Lenoir, then the lieutenant governor of the state. The jail and court house were completed sufficiently to allow court to be held in April, 1913, Judge Daniels presiding.

There are two legends concerning the reason this tract was called the Old Fields of Toe. L. D. Lowe, Esq., in the Watauga Democrat of June 19, 1913, states that one legend relates that Estatoe, the daughter of one of two rival chieftains, fell in love with the son of the other; but her father refused his consent, which caused a bloody war between the two factions. But Estatoe caused a pipe of peace to be made with two stems of titi so that two could smoke it at once. The two rival chiefs assembled their respective followers on the bank of the river, and smoked till peace was concluded and Estatoe married her lover. The other legend is that found in The Balsam Groves of the Grandfather mountain, and in it Estatoe is made to drown herself because she could not wed her Indian lover because of her father's implacable opposition.

Avery County's Long Pedigree. "It was a part of Clarendon in 1729; of New Hanover in 1729; of Bladen in 1734; of Anson in 1750; of Rowan in 1753; of Surry in 1770; of Burke in 1777; of Wilkes in 1777; of Ashe in 1799; of Yancey in 1833; of Caldwell in 1841; of Watauga in 1849; of Mitchell in 1861; so that that portion taken from Caldwell and attached to Avery in 1911 represents the eighth subdivision; and that from Watauga the tenth; which is a record probably unsurpassed."

The principal reason for the formation of this new county was the inaccessibility of Bakersville to most of the inhabitants of Mitchell, it being in the northeastern part of that county and only two and a half miles from the Yancey line. Linville City, two miles from Montezuma and Pinola, is "the cleanest town in the North Carolina mountains east of Asheville, and the only place of the kind where guests have a large, ideal zone for golf." The same author speaks of the Yonahlossee road, running from Linville City to Blowing Rock, as the Appian Way which ran from Rome via Naples, to Brundesium, and claims that the latter was not more interesting than the former. The world will one day admit that the fine scenery of North Carolina has its culmination in Avery County.

[Website Author's note - Clarendon County was NOT in existence in 1729, it was abolished in 1667.]

- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC


More Information

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 17,167 people, 6,532 households, and 4,546 families residing in the county. The population density was 70 people per square mile (27/km²). There were 11,911 housing units at an average density of 48 per square mile (19/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.95% White, 3.48% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.28% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. 2.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,532 households out of which 27.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.10% were married couples living together, 9.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.40% were non-families. 26.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the county the population was spread out with 19.40% under the age of 18, 10.30% from 18 to 24, 30.10% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 15.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 111.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 112.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,627, and the median income for a family was $37,454. Males had a median income of $25,983 versus $21,652 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,176. About 10.90% of families and 15.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.30% of those under age 18 and 19.00% of those age 65 or over.

- Source: Wikipedia